Do you remember me? I remember you, and this is why.
The day you came back to haunt me, I was living my life just like any other day. There were no shadows cast around my heart, no cobwebs of despair that entangled me, or so I believed. My life, when it began that day, ran with a pleasant hum of everyday busyness and business. There were plans that had been set by me and me alone, all exuding calm and order, minus all the melodrama and darkness that veiled my world when you set foot into it. All was supposed to be happy and pleasant that day. But then you returned, if ever so briefly, to remind my heart you never truly left.
I was walking downtown minding my own business when you happened, busy juggling in my head the order of my activities that I planned to do. From my recollection, I was wrestling over whether I should order Chinese food over pizza, knowing I had pizza just the other day but craving it in a strange profound way nonetheless. Thinking of it now, do you remember the times we ordered pizza together, your favorite being pineapple and sausage, and me pepperoni and mushroom, spending night after night pretending our world was safe as long as we bound ourselves together in every cosmic way? It was as though we were wound together as one. Until, of course, we were not. When I wanted the pizza the way I did, was it some premonition of your return? It makes me crazy to think of it. Because if it was, it means you haven’t been severed from me, no matter what I have done to banish you from me forever. It means you still lurk in the depths of my heart and soul.
In the midst of my mulling, some internal voice told me to look toward the street, deep from beyond my logical planning mind. It’s the same kind of impulse that compelled me so long ago to surrender all that I had to you. That’s what I did, instead of running far, far away where I could continue life without the chaos that you brought to my heart just by your very presence. I followed that instinct without thinking, gazing onto the road next to me, not at all sure what to expect.
What I saw at first was a typical traffic day, nothing special about it in that initial instant. The light in main street had just turned red, so the vehicles there all came to a stop, just like they always did. I don’t know what I’d expected to see. An accident, perhaps? An argument? But no, there was nothing unusual at all going on, just a bunch of vehicles stopped at a traffic light. I thought my impulse was a false alarm, and almost turned my eyes away. But that was when I saw you, and the years I placed between us disappeared in an instant. There was nothing I could do to stop it from happening.
You were in one of the vehicles stopped at the light. It was on the side of the road opposite of where I walked, but because all the traffic on the side nearest to me had stopped at the light, there was a clear line of sight between me and you. You were driving a silver pickup truck with souped up tires, exuding exactly the kind of practicality and badass that had so typified you. It was one of the things that charmed me about you, appealing to me in a way that I never thought I’d be allured by. Strangely enough, I found it happening again, feeling an emotion I thought I’d long forgotten.
Though it had been years since I’d last seen you, your physical features seemed to have not altered one bit. You wore the same scruffy beard and the same shoulder length hair that you did all that time ago. Except this time, your eyes were hidden behind black sunglasses. When I last saw you, I informed you I was leaving you, this time for good. Your eyes fought back tears before steeling with ice cold rage, and I walked away for the final time. I ignored the plea of your eyes, and kept myself moving, and felt proud that I’d had the strength to walk away from whatever spell they had over me. Now, all these years later, your eyes have hidden themselves from me, even as they gazed across the distance towards me. I felt them lock onto me, but they remained in the vault you created for your own protection, veiled behind the dark lenses that shielded them.
So unmoving was your expression, so hidden your emotions were towards me, that I almost concluded that I have stumbled upon a case of mistaken identity. But then your left side of your mouth curled up just a little bit, your head raised just a smidgen. I’m surprised I identified it from such a distance, and after so many years, but I could. Perhaps because the gesture was so familiar to me, that I can sensed it happening. Or, maybe it’s because I saw the crook of your neck just a little more, and remembered finding refuge nuzzling my face in it. This look I recognized is one you used on me, all of the time. Whenever I confronted you about it, you told me that you were trying to figure out if I was lying to you, or telling the truth. It was always your tell, poker player you were, and I remembered it when you remained otherwise impassive and unreachable. It was still your tell, and this is how you gave yourself away and I knew it was you. But, hidden as you were that day, it was all that you revealed and all I know, even after all we shared so long ago.
My heartbeat pulsed waves of conflicting sensations and emotions throughout my body, no different than it had been when it came to you. How could this be, when you are ancient history and irrelevant to my life now? If time heals all wounds, shouldn’t you be a distant memory with no bearing to me? Instead, confronted by a ghost behind the sunglasses, every memory and emotion that I thought was buried woke up in that one instant. It’s as though they were never truly dead, but were instead undead zombies waiting for the perfect moment of resurrection to torment the living like me. This is what you did to me that day, crashing into my life for just one brief moment.
You took me by surprise, appearing out of nowhere to land back into my life. But isn’t that just typical you, to show up and rattle my world? After all, you did it before. I never wanted to fall in love with you, but you eclipsed me with a spell that I couldn’t quite break until I slashed and tore it from me. It’s as though nothing has changed from all those years ago, when you captured my heart in such a subtle way that I didn’t even know you’d taken it, until it was too late to do anything to snatch it back.
Strange, isn’t it, how so little changes over time? Everyone likes to think they grow up, become different people, that everything attains a new character all the times. But it’s all costumes, and posturing. Nothing changes but the disguise, and everything underneath the trappings remains exactly the same. Just like the way you made me feel seeing you again, when I thought I had banished you from my heart forever.
I wanted to cross the road, to say something, anything to you. But what would I say? Hello? Please believe me, I did love you once even if I did betray you and desert you? Do you still like pineapple and sausage on your pizza? Why have I found no trace of you anywhere, until now? Who are you going to root for in the Super Bowl? Or, hey, what are you doing in my town now? Would you ever fall in love with me again, if I said I wanted you? And would I ever let myself fall once more to you?
But I didn’t. For after the instant your sunglass-covered eyes and mine meet and your tell gave you up, you turned away. The light turned green anyway, and the traffic, as it always does when this happens, sped up to carry its occupants to whatever destination they were supposed to be heading to next. It was no different with you. You looked forward and drove ahead without looking back, or giving me a second glance. Everything was just as it had been before your mirage tantalized me, leaving me alone with my busy schedule that I created with my own hands, and the traffic moving as it always does.
It leaves me with an image of a ghost behind the sunglasses to haunt me. It tells me that the past I thought was resting in eternal peace when I put it to sleep is very much alive, and it always will be. Your ghost will be there to make me remember.